It might be closing time for hundreds of assisted living facilities in Florida as state legislators prepare to increase regulatory oversight in response to statewide industry scandals exposed by the Miami Herald earlier this year, and a Grand Jury report criticized the state for for not doing enough to enforce existing regulations.
In September, the newspaper’s multi-part investigative series led Florida’s Senate to release a report calling for both increased and reorganized ALF regulatory oversight that may effectively shut down smaller facilities who are unable to cope with the financial burden of more regulations.
The costs associated with the increased regulation could force many of Florida’s nearly 3,000 assisted living facilities to close their doors, according to an Orlando Business Journals article.
Nearly two-thirds of facilities have 20 or fewer beds, and it’s these ones that are at risk for closing, according to Pat Lange, executive director of the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA).
“It’s a possibility that could happen if regulations became such that it was financially too burdensome to continue to operate,” Lange told SHN, although she added that the idea of more than 100 facilities actually closing down was “sensationalistic.”
The FALA doesn’t know what the state legislators will mandate when sessions begin on Jan. 10, and has yet to see any bills about regulation or enforcement.
It might be more important to ensure existing regulations are followed rather than creating more, Lange said.
“The real bottom line is, we need better enforcement and better cooperation between facilities and organizations that provide oversight,” she said. “It’s the enforcement that’s the problem that has allowed some of these things to happen, because the agencies for healthcare administration is the regulatory body. It’s their responsibility to enforce the regulations that do exist and have been in existence.”
While enforcement may be key, it’s likely there will also be some new rules, and Lange hopes they will help the industry rather than harm it.
“We have talked to a number of legislators and expressed our concerns that they be thoughtful when considering regulations,” she said. “We need to make sure that we don’t do things that will create unfunded mandates and make it more difficult for this industry, which serves about 83,000 Florida residents, to function.”
A Miami-Dade Grand Jury report blasted Florida for not cracking down on assisted living facilities involved in the Miami Herald investigation.
“Revoke the licenses. Impose the fines. Hit the offenders where it hurst the most, in their pockets,” says the report, released Dec. 8.
The Grand Jury placed blame on the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration for not doing enough to enforce regulations, saying there needs to be a better system of enforcement and accountability.
“With a growing elderly population and an ever increasing number of licensed facilities, there is clearly a need for improved interagency communication and a need for a lead agency,” the report says. “AHCA should be that agency.”
View the Grand Jury’s recommendations here.
Written by Alyssa Gerace